Why I Kesem: Moose–”To Be There”

Every now and then at Camp Kesem events, we get asked “Why do you Kesem?” We use this question in the CK community to ask more than just why someone shows up for an awesome week of camp every summer. “Why I Kesem” goes deeper than our not-so-secret addiction to silly camp songs and love of watching the Talent Show acts every summer. “Why I Kesem” is about the story that led us to this amazing organization, and what the counselors and campers have come to mean to us. This spring, we’re spotlighting our counselors and sharing their stories. This week, we feature Moose, a junior Civil Engineering major originally from Burnsville, MN. Moose’s family recently moved to Calgary, Alberta (Canada), lending even more ammunition to jokes about his being from the “Great White North”. Predictably, he likes the long “o” sound, skiing, and hockey, but shockingly, he does not own any flannel. Moose is also in charge of all of CKND’s social media and this website. He’s even writing this introduction about himself. When not using self-depricating humor to try to win the affection of others, Moose also play cymbals in the Notre Dame Drumline and handcrafts fine canoes out of concrete. 

My story is not about cancer. My grandma passed away from lung cancer two months before I was born, and my grandpa passed away from stomach cancer when I was 8, but the gravity of these situations was never apparent to me as a young child. So my story is not about cancer.

There’s been a common thread throughout my life when someone close to my family experiences a serious illness. People come through for each other. It’s always in different ways, and it’s always different people, but someone is always there.

When I was 4 years old, my aunt experienced complications in her pregnancy. My cousin Brighid was born extremely premature, and survived only 9 short days. Throughout the delivery and birth, my family was constantly trying to get information about my aunt’s and cousin’s conditions. With a family as large as mine, and with relatives living both around the U.S. as well as in Switzerland, spreading this information got to be a taxing job. Pretty quickly, my uncle found himself overwhelmed.

This is the part of the story where someone was there. My aunt’s good friend Sona decided to use her skills in website design to help out. She created a website to post updates on my aunt’s and cousin’s condition and her relatives and friends could post messages of support. This helped to alleviate the stress on my family and allowed my extended family to stay connected and updated. When my aunt’s condition improved, Sona decided to pursue this website as a resource for anyone on a health journey. In the subsequent years to follow, the website took on a name to honor Brighid: CaringBridge.

In the early years of CaringBridge, the company’s motto was “Be There”.

Fast-forward to 2013.

Within this current school year, two members of my graduating class from high school have died. Both of these girls died under tragic circumstances. But in both situations, people have been there for each other. The support between my high school classmates was incredible. Whether it was texts and phone calls between high school friends, a fellow Kesem counselor sitting and talking to me for several hours to try to explore the “why” behind these deaths, friends getting together to celebrate their lives, or other people from the Twin Cities passing on their condolences, people were there for each other, people were there for me, and I was there for people.

It isn’t a secret that being there for someone in a time of need doesn’t require a huge act. It can be as simple as a hand on the shoulder, a hug, or a simple acknowledgement. The beauty of Camp Kesem is that we all act in one of these capacities for each other. Some of us need someone to be there for us, some of us are there for others. At the Empowerment Ceremony this past year, one counselor’s story brought me to tears. One of the campers sitting near me noticed, and put a hand on my shoulder. Earlier that day, another counselor and I had taken a few minutes to sit and listen to a different camper describe their relationship with their sick parent. In the span of just a few hours, we all took both roles.

Camp Kesem allows us to be there for each other, and allows the counselors and fellow campers to be there for children who sometimes don’t have anyone there for them. It’s not just a one-week deal, it’s a lifetime connection to these people and their experiences. It’s a special bond, a special place, and I wouldn’t have traded that experience last summer for anything.

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